After our trip to Italy in 2017, my grandma wanted to do something special for her grandchildren - Myself and my sister. After about a month of looking at places to go, we decided to go to the grand canyon because neither of us had been before. We planned for memorial day but eventually decided on the weekend before because the crowds would be less. My sister booked a vacation package through Southwest and we were all set. Fast forward to May 17th. Having just completed my CFI training the day before, I went out to my home airport to schedule a checkride before I left. I scheduled it for the Sunday after we would get back so I would have some time to prepare. With that done, I went and picked up some snacks for the trip and was off to my next stop: The St. Louis bus station to pick up my sister.
After arriving at the bus station and picking my sister up, we left for our Grandma's house. Once we got there and unloaded my car, we took grandma's car to get serviced and then picked up some furniture for her new house. By the time that was done, we went home and had dinner. After a few hours of chatting, we went to bed since we had an early flight to catch in the morning.
Unfortunately for me, I did not get that much sleep during the night. By the time I woke up at 3:30, I thing I got about 3 hours of sleep. After a quick breakfast with a lot of coffee, We packed the car and headed to the airport. We got out of the car and my uncle took it back to my grandma's house. After saying our goodbyes, we went inside to check our bags since we already had our boarding passes. I found an open kiosk and scanned my boarding pass to access my reservation. To my horror, the following message appeared on the screen:
"Your flight has been cancelled. Please see an agent for rebooking."
I joined the queue for the ticket agents and after letting her know what happened, we were booked on the next available flight that would et us to Phoenix the fastest. Unfortunately that meant a 1:40 pm departure. That was almost a 7 hour delay. But I had no other choice so back to grandma's house we went.
After attempting to catch up on sleep, I went upstairs to watch some TV while waiting for the others to wake up. Eventually they all woke up and We had another breakfast since everyone was a little hungry. We sat down and played cards for an hour or so while we waited to leave again. Eventually, the time came for us to pack and leave. Hopefully with better results this time. We got to the airport and Iwent to chec in bags. No nasty message this time. Soon we were through security and sat down to try some craft brews and toasted ravioli.
We went to our gate and sat down to wait for our flight to arrive. It soon arrived from SFO and we were on within 20 minutes of its arrival.
route planned as of boarding time
Flight 1 of 2
We sat down in row 8 on the left hand side. Once I got settled in, I checked the weather. Things were not looking good. Here was a major thunderstorm system with tops up to FL500 spanning from central Texas to Omaha with multiple tornadoes. In essence, we were going to have a delay. After some back and forth between the pilots and ATC including the pilot outright refusing to fly south to Texas because that would require us to take on more fuel and further delay our trip, we received an amended clearance that had us fly over north of Omaha and then direct to Denver. It would only add 30 minutes to our flight. Soon enough, we were being pushed back and we were on our way
We taxied to runway 24 and took off with some great performance out of the CFM56 engines. we then turned south towards Rolla and climbed to our cruising altitude.
As we went further west, the clouds became increasingly more menacing and I knew we were going to be in for a "fun" ride. We turned north just west of Foristell and continued to Omaha.
tracking our progress on Foreflight
To their credit, the crew on this flight was amazing. They were even able to do a full beverage service between the pockets of turbulence.
Soon we let the storm behind and the landscape appeared below
Unfortunately, as soon as we started our descent, the arrival corridor was closed. On the bright side, this meant that we got excellent views of the Rockies as we now had to approach from the west.
Before I knew it, I looked out my window and saw the airport as we flew our downwind.
We landed on runway 34R and taxied to Gate C41. We parked next to Missouri One, which I found ironic considering the state we just left.
Route of flight in green, filed route in blue
I took my time getting off the plane because I was chatting with a crewmember from Republic Airways that was travelling back home from where he is based. Considering Republic is the company I intend on working for in about 1 and a half years, It was nice to get a networking opportunity in. Even with the delay on the ground in STL, we still made it in plenty of time to catch our flight to Phoenix. After getting off the plane, I found a place to charge my laptop and phone while filling out a comment form letting corporate know how wonderful the crew was. Once that was done, it as time to Board the second flight of the day.
Flight 2 of 2
filed route at time of boarding
We walked down the jetbridge and into the 13 year old airplane.
I sat down and settled in for what would end up being a nice, uneventful flight.
We took off on runway 17L amid some lovely afternoon sun
Soon we were above the clouds and I decided to watch some TV on my iPad through the wifi. The streaming quality was excellent and it really helped to pass the time
The crew came around for the beverage and snack service and I had my usual Ginger ale.
tracking via Foreflight near the Gallup (GUP) VOR
turning to begin our arrival route
Our descent was smooth and before I knew it, we were on final approach
We touched down just before 5pm on runway 26. After a short taxi, which offered a nice view of their control tower, we arrived at gate D6.
route of flight over filed route
After visiting with the pilots for a bit and getting well wishes for my upcoming checkride, I left the aircraft. I got halfway up the jetbridge before I realized I didn't have my camera bag with me. Thankfully, a flight attendant got it and I was on my way. We went to baggage claim and then got on a shuttle to the rental car area. I hadn't been to Phoenix before so I was surprise by ho far away the rental car place was. The shuttle ride took approximately 10 minutes.
We went over to Enterprise and picked our car up. It as a blue Nissan Altima. We loaded it up, and off to Flagstaff we went.
I fell asleep for most of the drive after we got dinner from Subway. I woke up after my ears popped from the elevation gain. 12 hours after we intended to be there, we arrived at our hotel in Flagstaff
Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for part 2 which will feature photos from the trip as well as the return flight.